I have a different take on Russia and Russians than you might hear otherwise, and this experience leads me to a small suggestion which I often share with our children.
Russians tend to be independent and entrepreneurial; they believe in faith, family, education, friends and looking out for each other. They don’t trust the government, generally don’t invest in stocks, don’t borrow, or keep their money in banks. If they want to buy something, they save for it and then pay cash.
Why? My good friend Darrell Stanaford is a West Point graduate who has worked in Russia for almost twenty years. He is married to Sveta, one of the smartest people in either hemisphere; and they have a gifted son. In Darrell’s contribution to a book called Russia for the Advanced (all of the contributors have long experience in the country), he points out a singularly defining fact: every generation of Russians has experienced losing everything.
We rightly admire our own Greatest Generation, which suffered through the Great Depression and fought World War II overseas. But think about it: every generation of Russians for at least ten generations has experienced losing everything! To war, government induced famine, revolution, or government expropriation. From personal experience they know that the government often harms whatever it touches, genuinely hurting people. Ironically, Russians run from the idea of more government, while some of our leaders are embracing it.
Russia is a European Christian country with a third of the world’s oil and a quarter of the world’s gas. They will help fight the people who are really trying to kill us. Imagine if Mexico, in addition to all its current splendor, were also a Jihadist state? That’s what the Russians have had to deal with for centuries.
When was the last time you heard Russians described in this way?
Why are we at odds with each other? Our core beliefs are virtually the same. In my opinion, the politicians in both countries gain from having the other to bash. So on at least this subject I agree with our current Administration: it’s time to hit the Reset button with Russia, certainly not giving in to all that they might want, but not demonizing them either.
So to what conclusion has knowing Russia since 1969—the good and the bad—led me? Sources. If all you know about a place, country, people or organization comes from just one or two sources, you really don’t know anything. No matter how good they supposedly are. Every source has a perspective and a purpose, even if subtle and unintended. So you have to look around, question, and find more sources. Look for all the sides. Read and listen. Only then decide the truth. And always be ready to learn more.